Rusakhinili – The Capital Of The Kingdom Of Van – Armenia

Located on a fortified rock east of the city of Van, Rusakhinili was the capital of the Kingdom of Van during its decline.

Rusakhinili was built by King Rusa I (Armenian: Հրաչյա; Hrachya, Hrusha, or Rachea, Rusa is the generally accepted but distorted name) after Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III in 735 BC inflicted a decisive defeat on Rusa’s father, Sarduri II, and ravaged the previous capital of the Kingdom of Van, the city of Tosp (Tushpa).

Rusa I named the new city in honor of himself.

King Rusa I was forced to launch a number of complex hydraulic engineering works to organize an uninterrupted water supply. At 30 km from the city, he created an artificial lake with several dams connected by two canals with the city. The water level of the lake was 900 meters higher than the city of Rusakhinili.

These structures allowed the population to irrigate and grow gardens on the land around Rusakhinili.

Fresh water supply to Rusakhinili was 2.5 – 3 m³/sec. Rusa I’s hydraulic structure existed for about 2500 years until 1891, when it was destroyed due to lack of maintenance and severe flooding.

Scientists consider the water supply system of the city of Rusakhinili to be a structure that is not inferior to similar hydraulic engineering facilities of our time.

The first excavations at the Rusakhinili rock (called Toprakkale in Turkish) were carried out by the British vice-consul in Van, Captain Emilius Clayton and archaeologist Hormuzd Rassam in 1879. The main focus was on the temple, which at that time was still well preserved on the northern slope of the cliff.

As a result of the excavations, a number of valuable items were discovered, including jewelry, royal shields, and decorative stone friezes. Most of these finds ended up in the British Museum.

In 1898-1899, a German archaeological expedition headed by Lehmann-Haupt worked at Toprakkale. The items discovered by this expedition mainly ended up in the Berlin Museum, but many of them were not taken out and formed the basis of the funds of the Van archaeological museum in Turkey which would collect the remaining finds from Tospa and Rusakhinili.

Based on the results of the work of the expedition, a multivolume work would be published as well.

In 1911-1912, academician Orbelian carried out small excavations at Toprakkale.

From the end of WWI to the present, a stronghold of the Turkish regular army has been located on the site of Rusakhinili, so Toprakkale has been closed to tourists and archaeologists.

Original prepared by Alexander Bakulin

“Door of Mher” – “gates of God” near Rusakhinili
War chariot of the 8th century BC
Griffin, throne decoration detail
Detail of the throne in the form of a bull figurine
Winged deity that adorned the throne, bronze
The winged deity that adorned the throne
Winged deities, bone carving
At the top of the drawbar of the chariot of the VIII century. BC
Toprakh-kale rock, where Rusakhinili was located
Stylized image of the tree of life
An enlarged fragment of the image on the helmet, containing the “Tree of Life” with winged deities on the sides.
Goddess figurine




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